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Commodity Computing

I have been mulling around with this idea: what if people didn't have to buy powerful computers but instead just buy a computer good enough that connects to a powerful time sharing system which can pretty much be located somewhere else in the world? Will the concept fly? What changes will it bring to the PC consumer industry? What will it mean to software vendors who target the end-user market?

First off, let's consider the proposition: what if you can have your data hosted in a data center which has all the failover and redundancy technology you can only dream about, with bandwidth that you can only wish you could have, and with the most powerful computers you can only wish will fit in your pocket. Now what if you can do that for a recurring cost like how you pay for your electricity, water, bandwidth?

Personal computers are getting cheaper and cheaper, and it would certainly be very easy for some well-off companies/individuals to set up a cluster of computers from these personal computers to come up with a system that shares resources and serves hundreds and thousands of users simultaneously. Will this model work for third world countries like the Philippines?

I think it would. If PLDT sold a computer worth Php 15,000 and gave a low income family a phone line along with it and a year's worth of access to a time-sharing system in their data center. If Php 15,000 is too high even for small income families then let's say that's spread out over a year (roughly Php 1,000++ monthly). For a family with children studying in shool, what they'll just probably need is access to some internet resources through a browser (that ran on the server), a word processor, some educational games, etc. and all this can be accessed though a dialup link via a VNC client.

Now think of the economics on the side of PLDT (or Globe, or Bayantel, or some other telco with internet data centers): A PC with two dual core processors can easily host (4 users per processor, 4 virtual systems) 16 people _easy_. How much does a PC like that cost? Let's check: easily around Php 100k. But with 16 people paying 10k each, that already covers the cost of the actual PC. The internet bandwidth is realy just constant.

How now does PLDT or other telco's make more money out of it? The same way ABS-CBN, GMA, and other companies make money. Only this time, PLDT has direct access to a demographic that these media companies only want to be able to contact directly. Ads drive the entertainment industry, and ads drive the Internet business (more or less). And at the same time, they can do more direct marketing to the people that actually avail of their services. It also allows them to move into a different market segment and re-vitalize their fixed-line business and synergize with the internet business.

This can allow faster Internet adoption in the many different segments of the Philippine market: more than 50% of which cannot afford the luxuries of broadband Internet access.

Now if I only had the capital...



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